“Stunning! We’ll live in this wing of the house and leave the rest of the old barracks to the cats, should we?”
I was tingling with joy, but all the same I knew that a grim battle was before me.
By the time he returned from his room I had tea served in my boudoir, and while we sat facing the open door to the balcony he told me about his visit to his old school; how at the dinner on the previous night the Principal had proposed his health, and after the lads had sung “Forty Years On” he had told them yarns about his late expedition until they made the long hiss of indrawn breath which is peculiar to boys when they are excited; how they had followed him to his bedroom as if he had been the Pied Piper of Hamelin and questioned him and clambered over him until driven off by the house-master; and how, finally, before he was out of bed this morning the smallest scholar in the junior house, a tiny little cherub with the face of his mother, had come knocking at his door to ask if he wanted a cabin boy.
Martin laughed as if he had been a boy himself (which he always was and always will be) while telling me these stories, and I laughed too, though with a certain tremor, for I was constantly remembering my resolution and feeling afraid to be too happy.
After tea we went out on to the balcony, and leaned side by side over the crumbling stone balustrade to look at the lovely landscape—loveliest when the sun is setting on it—with the flower-garden below and the headland beyond, covered with heather and gorse and with a winding white path lying over it like the lash of a whip until it dipped down to the sea.
“It’s a beautiful old world, though, isn’t it?” said Martin.
“Isn’t it?” I answered, and we looked into each other’s eyes and smiled.
Then we heard the light shsh of a garden hose, and looking down saw an old man watering the geraniums.
“Sakes alive! It’s Tommy the Mate,” cried Martin, and leaving me on the balcony he went leaping down the stone stairway to greet his old comrade.
“God bless me!” said Tommy. “Let me have a right look at ye. Yes, yes, it’s himself, for sure.”
A little gale of tender memories floated up to me from my childhood at seeing those two together again, with Martin now standing head and shoulders above the old man’s Glengarry cap.
“You’ve been over the highways of the sea, farther than Franklin himself, they’re telling me,” said Tommy, and when Martin, laughing merrily, admitted that he had been farther south at all events, the old sailor said:
“Well, well! Think of that now! But wasn’t I always telling the omadhauns what you’d be doing some day?”
Then with a “glime” of his “starboard eye” in my direction he said:
“You haven’t got a woman yet though? . . . No, I thought not. You’re like myself, boy—there’s not many of them sorts in for you.”